HAMMOCK GEAR INCUBATOR 20* F FULL-LENGTH UNDERQUILT
BY STEVEN M KIDD
April 18, 2012
Steven M Kidd
5' 9" (1.75 m)
220 lb (99.80 kg)
Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 25 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lbs (23+ kg). In the last several years I have become a hammock camping enthusiast. I generally go on one or two night outings that cover between 5 to 20 mi (8 - 32 km) distances. I try to keep the all-inclusive weight of my pack under 20 lb (9 kg) even in the winter.
|Image Courtesy of Hammock Gear|
Manufacturer: Hammock Gear
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://hammockgear.com
MSRP: US $239.00
Listed Weight: 22.5 oz (638 g)
Measured Weight: 25.5 oz (723 g)
Listed Measurements: 77x45 in (196 x 114 cm)
My Measurements: 77x45 in (196 x 114 cm)
Listed Quilt Loft: 3.5 in (9 cm)
Measured Quilt Loft: 3.5 in (9 cm)
Temperature Rating: 20/15 F (-7/-9 C)
The Hammock Gear Incubator is a full-length under quilt, or UQ, that is designed to attach underneath a camping hammock in order to keep the user warm. Hammock Gear designs the Incubator in three base temperature ratings: 40 F (4 C), 20 F (-7 C) and 0 F (-18 C). However, as a cottage industry they customize much of the gear they produce. A customer may choose from minimal options like additional down or varying footbox construction, however, he or she may contact the vendor directly to have nearly everthing about the product customized. My Incubator is the base 20 *F, filled with 900 fill down, and Hammock Gear gives it at a variable comfort rating of 20/15 F (-9/-7C).
As you read further into this review you will quickly learn how impressed I am with this UQ and how it has come to be a go-to piece of gear for all but the warmest weather. My main critique, which I felt necessary to place in the Product Information section, isn't truly with the product itself, but with some of the confusing language on the company website. As just mentioned, I purchased a 900 goose down fill quilt, and at the time the vendor offered both that and an 800 fill version.
They now only provide the more premium goose down, but when I recently reviewed the specifications grid for the full-length UQ on their website it still shows both 800 and 900 versions with varying temperature ratings based on the down fill.
As I understand, 1 oz (28 g) of 900 fill down takes up more volume than the same amount of 800 fill. Therefore a higher fill allows for a lighter product with a similar comfort rating. To spot check the customer service I received when I purchased my quilt well over a year ago I decided to call the company. An owner, Adam Hurst, answered the phone and was extremely helpful. As I suspected, Hammock Gear has continued is to stuff their quilts with the same amount of down, 12 oz (340 g) in my case.
In my discussion with him, he explained that around a year ago he and the co-owner, his wife Jenny, decided to begin carrying only the 900 fill down, as the varying types had become a little confusing to customers. He stated, they continue to stuff the quilts with the same weight allowing for a little 'padding' to give the end user a very conservative temperature rating. Thus, per Adam, Hammock Gear has not renamed their three quilt fills to a lower rating. Rather, they have kept the following names: the 0 *F, the 20 *F and 40 *F. In fact, he recalled how at one time they had been known as the Winter, Three-Season and Summer Quilts. He notified me that the old naming system was even more confusing to his customers as 'warmth ratios' are so subjective to the end user. I'm also sure he didn't want further confuse his loyal customers with a third name change.
In summary of their website, Hammock Gear has removed the 800 fill information from the specifications grid for their other down-filled products, but they appear to erroneously remain on the grid for the full-length Under Quilt. Anyone can go to the company's website, request any item, pay for it and have it shipped without any human communication. Adam suggested that if an end user who wanted an item built custom to their individual needs, he or she should review the website and become familiar with the product they want and then email or call and speak with him to choose the exact specifications that best fit them personally. I personally believe Hammock Gear should remove the aforementioned down fill variation information on the website that may confuse a potential customer, but I would certainly suggest that potential customer's reach out to him for questions.
|Interior View of Incubator|
|Close up of Shock Cord & Grosgrain Ribbon|
|Exterior View of Incubator|
An under quilt is much like the bottom half of a sleeping bag. In hammocking they are often used in conjunction with a top quilt or a traditional sleeping bag that is left unzipped and draped over the hammock camper. Under the weight of the human body down insulation compresses, losing its loft and insulating properties. This isn't generally a problem with a person sleeping on the ground, as the ground dweller generally has a sleeping pad that insulates him or her. Without proper insulation below me in a hammock, air flow, wind and ambient temperatures will quickly cause me to chill. This occurs for me around 60 - 65 F (15 - 18 C), I'm aware others can be uncomfortable in even warmer temperatures. By suspending a quilt snugly below the hammock and allowing the insulation to loft, I then stay warm as I sleep with this below me and a top quilt above.
Hammock Gear states their UQ features tapered ends and a dual differential cut radial baffles. There are nine different 2 in (5 cm) baffles in my version. As noted in the top image there is a deep and a shallow end in the Incubator. The shallow end is designed to go toward the feet and cup the legs, whereas the deep end surrounds the torso when lying inside a hammock. The Incubator is designed this way to minimize air gaps between the hammocker's body and the quilt as he or she rolls around or change sleeping positions during rest. The intention is to minimize cool spots.
The shell material is a down-proof lightweight ripstop nylon with a DWR coating and it is filled with 12 oz (340 g) of goose down. To restate, my quilt is a stock version with minimal options selected, but the company offers more technical fabrics as well.
The edges of the under quilt are trimmed with a grosgrain ribbon channel that allows a single 14 ft (4.3 m) piece of 1/8 in (3 mm) shock cord to run the entire length of both sides of the quilt. The shock cord attaches to each end the hammock suspension with a simple lightweight carabiner. The end channels of the UQ also have a shock cord that may be cinched tightly with a cord lock for a snug fit on cool nights or loosened to allow air flow on warmer evenings.
IMPRESSIONS & FIELD USE
Since the winter of 2011 the Hammock Gear Incubator UQ has been the only bottom insulation I've used in hammock camping when the temperatures have been below 50 F (10 C). I'd estimate I've used it a minimum of 35 nights in the backcountry. I've used the product comfortably to temperatures as low at 17 F (-8 C) in dry, wet and windy conditions. I mention wind, because air flow that encircles a hammock can also affect comfort while sleeping. In cold and windy conditions, I attempt to hang my hammock and tarp setup in a direction that blocks wind, whereas in warmer conditions my setup is changed as to allow air flow around me as I sleep. It was an unseasonably mild winter here last year, and although I can't verify the performance at lower temperatures, I would easily feel comfortable testing my quilt to cooler temperatures. I was always toasty at even the lowest temperatures in which I used it, but as I mentioned the subject earlier, I tend to be a 'warm' sleeper.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
I've been thoroughly impressed with everything about the Hammock Gear Incubator and with the vendor in particular. As mentioned earlier, being a cottage industry I was able to pick up the phone and discuss the particulars I wanted and needed in an under quilt before I purchased it. After sharing my needs during a typical season, Adam suggested to me the quilt he felt would best fit my needs. I'm not typically a 'cold' sleeper, so I ordered a stock 900 goose down fill 20* F quilt. If I were, I could have easily ordered several ounces of down overfill to be added to the product.
|Incubator with a Gathered End Hammock (Shallow end on Right)|
I've used the UQ with four different hammocks. Two have been a simple gathered-end style hammock. Fitting and adjusting the Incubator with this hammock style is quite simple for me. I cinch the shock-corded end channels as tight as necessary for weather conditions, hook the carabiners over the hammock's suspension line, hop in and get a feel for how the quilt is fitting. It generally fits snugly enough, but if something isn't 'dialed in' I simply grab the sides of the quilt and slide it up or down the shock cord to gain a secure and comfortable fit. In the image to the left the end channels are cinched tight so as to allow no air flow between the hammock and the UQ for a subfreezing night.
The other hammocks I've used are asymmetrically cut with structural ridgelines and mosquito netting. I learned how to dial in the UQ with these hammocks as well, but it wasn't nearly as simple as with the gathered end style. If I needed tweaking or adjusting I had to exit the hammock or have a backpacking buddy slide the quilt for me after I'd already entered the hammock. This was never a nuisance, merely a factor I had to deal with at times.
|Incubator in provided Stuff Sack|
If the under quilt doesn't snugly and properly fit beneath the hammock and an air gap is created I can experience cool spots, known as "Cold Butt Syndrome", on cold nights. Full-length under quilts are often known in the hammocking community to sag some in the center and create this issue. I personally never have experienced center 'sag' in my Incubator, but the vendor does provide several sewn loops at varying lengths along the grosgrain ribbon that I could attach a piece of shock cord and pull the quilt's center snug, then up and over the hammock's ridgeline. In addition to this suspension system, Hammock Gear now offers a newer one designed to overcome the potential for sag. In fact, when I recently chatted with him he suggested I return my quilt for a retrofit. As a creature of habit, and someone who has been satisfied with my current setup I declined his offer at the moment, but I'm probably acquiring the 40 *F model with the new suspension in which to compare. So, come this winter I'll probably have a summer weight quilt with a different suspension Owner Review to pen.
I've only once or twice had minimal cool spots at periods during the night and was able to quickly adjust the quilt by sliding it or reaching underneath the hammock and realigning a bit of the down loft to another spot, in doing so I've never had to exit the hammock. I've never once spent and uncomfortable night in any hammock using my Incubator UQ.
When I first began hammock camping I used self-inflating pads, closed cell pads or a reflective bubble type material to provide insulation underneath. All have worked for me, but none have ever provided the warmth and comfort I've had using the Incubator UQ. In warm summer months I still use a lightweight pad at times, but this is only if I expect temperatures of 65 F (18 C) or above.
The image next to the volleyball shows the stuffed size when placed in the sack that accompanied the quilt. I personally never use this sack, rather I place both the under quilt and a Hammock Gear top quilt together into one lightweight 13 L (793 cu in) Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack. Feel free to review that test report.
All in all, I'm very impressed with this quality product from Hammock Gear. I love the Incubator UQ and I own several pieces of gear the vendor has created. In communicating with them to verify some of the specifics for this review I appear to have talked myself into abandoning summer month pad use and acquiring a second UQ for use in the summer.
I'll close this review with a few final images of the Incubator. The one on the left is my back yard test of the UQ with a Grand Trunk Ultralight (another Review you may feel free to review). The hammock was new in this image, and I always test my gear with a yard hang before hitting the backcountry. This is one of the best images I could find to show how the quilt suspends with a gathered-end hammock. The image on the right, although not as clear, shows a typical cross wind tarp and UQ setup with a Hennessy Deep Jungle, one of my netted hammocks.
|Back Yard Test|
|Hennessy Deep Jungle Hammock Setup Against the Wind|
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